‘Dollface’ a mobster tale
“I told myself not all gangsters were thugs and criminals,” says Vera Abramowitz in Dollface, Akron native Renee Rosen’s novel about a flapper who gets tangled up with two mobsters in Chicago’s bitter feud between Al Capone’s organization and the rival North Side Gang.
The story starts in 1923, when Vera, who works in an insurance office and makes a little extra money modeling jewelry at high-society parties, is rescued from a speakeasy raid by Tony, a handsome, big-spending sport. She later meets Shep, another smooth criminal, with whom she feels safe until she sees him involved in a street shooting.
Vera makes her choice, persuading herself that she can remain untouched by the racketeering that keeps her in jewelry and pretty clothes. Her former roommate Evelyn is involved with a thug, and the women become part of a larger group, several of them coarse and vulgar. This makes it more difficult for Vera as she hopes to be part of a ladies’ civic group; her dream of leading a committee of upper-crust society dames goes poof when they learn how the hooch really gets in Vera’s flask.
Rosen mixes real-life names and events with her invented Jazz Age story as it weaves through the path of bootleggers and tommy guns to its inevitable end, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. There are some steamy scenes and one truly shocking sequence.
Dollface (396 pages, softcover) costs $15 from Penguin. Renee Rosen’s 2007 novel, Every Crooked Pot, is about an Akron teenager who has to deal with a prominent birthmark on her face as well as a kooky father. Rosen is a graduate of American University and now lives in Chicago.
Adventure book of her own
In the Heckel family, it is one by sea, two by land. Richfield resident Florence Heckel Russell, who worked with her father, Harry L. Heckel Jr., on his book Around the World in 80 Years: The Oldest Man to Sail Alone the World – Twice!, has an adventure book of her own. Heading South: Tales From the RV Trail, is Russell’s amusing account of travel in a recreational vehicle.
Russell, offered a buyout from her Cleveland employer, took early retirement and, with her husband, Mike, bought a 23-foot trailer. They hitched it up to a truck and set south, heading through Kentucky and Tennessee to Mississippi and west.
Russell displays the same wit and observation as her father as she describes the campground employees the couple met (like the “Gate Nazi” in Texas), and the degrees of welcome they received (some restaurants and stores set up barriers to prevent the vehicles from entering).
Readers will snicker at Russell’s “Dear Grandchildren” stories, in which she pokes fun at “Papa,” methodical Mike, who weighs each can of beans before loading them in the cargo area.
Heading South (184 pages, softcover) costs $9.99 from online retailers.
Akron-Summit County Main Library (60 S. High St.) — Chief David Oliver of the Brimfield Police Department talks about his Facebook page and his book No Mopes Allowed: A Small Town Police Chief Rants and Babbles about Hugs and High Fives, Meth Busts, Internet Celebrity, and Other Adventures, 7-9 p.m. Monday.
Stark County District Library (Lake Community branch, 11955 Market Ave. N., Uniontown) — Bob Grau, author of Five Million Steps on a Journey of Hope: Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail, talks about hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2011 and signs his book, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Akron-Summit County Public Library (Northwest Akron branch, 1720 Shatto Ave.) — Irv Korman, author of I Was Jackie Mason’s Chauffeur for 5 Minutes and More Celebrity Encounters, talks at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Orange branch, 31300 Chagrin Blvd., Pepper Pike) — Author and illustrator Lindsay Ward (When Blue Met Egg) signs her new picture book Please Bring Balloons, 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Dover Public Library (525 N. Walnut St.) — Akron author James Renner talks about unexplained events and signs It Came From Ohio: True Tales of the Weird, Wild, and Unexplained, 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Book Club in a Bar — The Learned Owl’s open-to-all Book Club in a Bar’s guest at 7 p.m. Thursday is author Julia Keller, whose Bitter River is second in a series that began with the superlative mystery A Killing in the Hills, about Bell Elkins, county prosecutor in an impoverished West Virginia town. Keller won a 2005 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for coverage of a 2004 Illinois tornado. Call the shop at 330-653-2252 for the location.
Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library (3512 Darrow Road, Stow) — Charles Cassady Jr., author of Paranormal Great Lakes: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, and Cleveland Ghosts: Nights of the Working Dead, tells local tales of the supernatural, 7 p.m. Thursday.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.) — John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio: On the Road Again, talks about haunted places and paranormal experiences, 7 p.m. Thursday. Registration required; call 330-653-6658.
Cleveland Public Library (325 Superior Ave.) — Margit Liesche talks about her novel Triptych, which combines stories of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and life in 1980s Chicago, 2 p.m. Saturday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Maple Heights branch, 5225 Library Lane) — Charles Cassady Jr. tells ghost stories and signs his books, including Paranormal Great Lakes, 2-4:15 p.m. Saturday.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Kent State University professor Stephanie Siciarz signs her debut novel, Left at the Mango Tree, 5-7 p.m. Saturday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or email@example.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.